On May 23, 2013, an alarming incident jolted the United States into a renewed focus on infrastructure safety. The freeway bridge carrying the heavily trafficked Interstate 5 over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon, Washington, suddenly collapsed.
The Skagit River Bridge, a vital artery connecting Canada and the U.S., was built in 1955 as part of the extensive Interstate Highway System. However, this decades-old infrastructure was not designed to withstand today’s vehicular loads and traffic.
The collapse was precipitated when an oversized truck struck several overhead support beams on the bridge’s northern side. This collision critically compromised the structural integrity of the bridge, causing a 160-foot section to plummet into the river below.
Miraculously, there were no fatalities. Three people were rescued from the chilly waters, suffering only minor injuries. The incident could have been far more tragic, but the quick response from emergency personnel mitigated the potential disaster.
The collapse, though calamitous, served as a wake-up call to the nation. It underscored the urgent need to invest in and modernize the country’s aging infrastructure. In response, state and federal authorities accelerated efforts to inspect and reinforce other bridges of similar design across the U.S., taking important strides to prevent future incidents of this kind and ensure public safety on American roadways.